My Experience With Rape Culture
Not long ago I had a moment of revelation: Raw stories of sexual violence are immensely powerful.
I was introduced to this in part through SlutWalk, a global anti rape culture campaign that examines how we talk about sexual violence.
I would like to share my story with you.
This is my speech from this years SlutWalk SLC.
"I’m angry. I’m tired. But I am also full of hope.
Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
Well, we are here. We have voices. And we are speaking out.
My name is Tiffany Thorne. I am a survivor and I am a slut.
I am defining slut on my own terms. I am in control of my sexuality and I am happy with it.
To those of you who feel alone, to those of you who never thought it could happen to you, to those of you fighting to live your lives in a culture of rape. This is for you.
If you don’t know what its like to have your voice stolen, to suffer an attack.
We are here for you too.
We are SURVIVORS and ALLIES, and we’d like to set a few things straight.
I have been hearing that Slutwalk is a controversial movement.
We, in Utah, are in desperate need of SlutWalk.
Locally, the public has responded with “modesty is just good prevention.”
I cannot stress this enough- MODESTY IS NOT GOOD PREVENTION.
Victims are selected for their vulnerability, not because they are sexually provocative.
The fact is-
According to Utah State University Sexual Assault and Anti Violence Information
Most convicted rapists do not even remember what their victim was wearing.
According to the US department of Justice 60-70% of rapes are premeditated, and most survivors were wearing regular clothes like blue jeans or pj’s when they were assaulted, not provocative clothes.
Rape is a crime motivated by the need to control, humiliate, and harm. Rapists use sexual violence as a weapon.
When we tell people to prevent sexual violence by covering up their bodies, we do the bidding of rapists. Because not only do we send the false message that rape can be managed by invoking a degree of invisibility- we send the message that you must be afraid of how vulnerable you are, how little power you have, and if your power is taken away with an attack, we will be too distracted by the way you covered up your body to achieve justice.
It is not our clothes that cause rape. And we know that. We understand that this injustice is a problem, but we don’t understand that this problem belongs to all of us.
Again, my name is Tiffany Thorne. I am a survivor and I am a slut.
I am in control of my sexuality and I am happy with it,
Being sexually assaulted on more than one occasion carved invisible scars.
No more than a week and a half ago, my rapist was found ‘not guilty’.
Even though he apologized in text messages for “crossing the line” in a letter for being an “ass” and for being “so, so disrespectful” even though he testified on the stand that he was “too aggressive”.
Even though I was not the one on trial, the jury just could not see me as the “perfect victim”.
Today, I would like to read to you a piece of the victim impact statement that I never got to read onto the record…
I was once far more energized and able to concentrate on my studies. To be constantly progressing is an “old” normal for me. My “new” normal is striving for stability.
I suffer from PTSD, which for me has meant fits of crying, and moments of paralyzing fear, it means nightmares, and avoiding commonplace things that are now triggers, like my rapists tattoo of the Ute’s Drum and feather logo.
I worry that my grief, fear, and insecurity are too permanently entrenched in my day-to-day living now to every fully go away.
I am afraid that I will cope with this for the rest of my life. That there will be good days, and there will be bad days as well. I am afraid I will never regain the same sense of security I once had.
I hope that in the future there will be an educated community and a transformed culture that understands the plight of victims and accepts them, not question them and judge them.
I do not feel ashamed for myself, but I do feel ashamed for my community.
Ashamed that the worth and good standing of a rape victim in my community is compromised by an adversarial court process, that exposes every facet of a victims private life, who’s rapist has no business knowing.
Ashamed that juries are pooled from this culture of rape and are frequently to ill-equipped to render a fair verdict.
And that the overwhelming response of our citizens here when hearing of a friend or loved-ones victimization is to drop it, not pursue criminal charges, not talk about it any more, and move on.
Good standing citizens have said to me there is no justice in the justice system to just to get over it, and move on with my life.
Telling me to move on like this minimizes my experiences, and demonstrates how poorly tolerated victims of sexual violence are.
I am on the other side of a wall now. I see the world, along with many others who have been victimized, as a world separate from me and beyond my reach.
The loneliness of this is profound.
Many seem to first verify with me that what happened was rape, and that it was “really that bad”.
My whole world transformed, and even of those who seem to get that much, there are fewer who are willing to hold with me all of the implications that has and everything that means. I have been left on many times to hold open all the implications alone.
I endure periods of overwhelming anger, frustration, and sadness.
I see traces of who I was in others, and I find that I miss her and who she was becoming.
I grieve lost time and lost possibilities.
This has been the human cost of Mr. Payne’s crime.
When the trial was over, and I went home feeling completely ill, someone very dear to me said, “I know that some people might say that he changed you and took something from you, but it isn’t true. People go through these things, and they come out the other side and use their experiences to spark change. I have complete confidence that’s what you’ll do.” Hearing that gave me strength, and I repeat her words hoping that it gives strength to you who need it.
These are our stories. Our stories matter. And we can tell them in our own tongues, on our own terms.
This began for me as one of the most isolating experiences of my life, and now seeing all of you, I realize that I am not the only one pierced by silence. We are not alone in our pain.
I am inspired by the passion in this city, and what all this energy can accomplish. Let us start something by talking, in completely messy and imperfect ways, and lets keep talking. Let’s never go back to the silence.
To quote Audrey Lorde, “My silence has not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.”
In conversations about sexual violence modesty completely misses the mark. Lets get loud about that!
Lets get loud about slut shaming and victim-blaming.
I was wearing pajamas. What were you wearing? Tell me about it.
This is about reclaiming our power, and finding our voice, and knowing the strength of Sluts and allies united.
Nobody except you gets to decide how you dress, who you love, how you love, or whether or not you want to have sex.
An unknown poet once said, “I am the opposite of what you tried to make me. You tried to break me. I took the broken bits and remade me. Strong. I am not silence. I am song.”
And so, in closing, as they did in SlutWalk Seattle I want you to yell back “I DO” to these questions.
Who has the power to decide what you wear?
Who decides who you love?
Who decides how you love?
Who decides whether or not you are worthy?
Who decides whether or not you deserve joy?
Who decides whether or not you want to have sex?”